Positions Pittsburgh Steelers Need to Address in Offseason
Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Needs
After a very disappointing 2012 season that was marred by injuries and inconsistent play, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to get back into the postseason in 2013.
This season was the first time since 2009 that the Steelers missed the playoffs. Despite all of the setbacks, Pittsburgh still had a chance late in the regular season to claim a wildcard spot, and even had a slim chance to win the AFC North.
Looking at all of the free agents and potential college players that will be entering this year’s draft, the Steelers could definitely benefit from adding more youth to their roster. Mainly on the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh is getting older and older by the minute. The offense is relatively young, but the possibility of key players not returning next season makes addressing the offense this offseason a major priority.
Similar to recent history, the Steelers will find it quite difficult to get what they need this upcoming offseason due to their salary cap. However, Pittsburgh will probably once again restructure some contracts of current players and make other roster moves to clear cap space.
Let’s just push the monetary issues to the side for now, and focus on exactly what type of personnel the Steelers need going into the 2013 season. I feel that all of the positions that will be mentioned could be attended to either through the draft or though free agency.
Many have always said that the Steelers need a cornerback to complement Ike Taylor. It looks as if they might have gotten that this past season with the breakout season by Keenan Lewis. Though Lewis didn’t record a high number of interceptions, he was an important part of Pittsburgh’s number-one ranked pass defense in 2012. Lewis in now a free agent, and on the heels of a good year, other teams may have him on their offseason radar. If by chance Lewis is lured away from Pittsburgh, Taylor, an 11-year veteran, will be left with a slew of unproven cornerbacks.
Steelers safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu aren’t getting any younger. Clark is an 11-year veteran who is able to still produce for Pittsburgh’s defense. However, the fact still remains that he will be one year older in the 2013 season. As for Polamalu, who will be 32 at the start of next season, his recent rash of injuries have shown everyone that time is quickly catching up with him, and that he isn’t far from being a shell of his former self. Just like the cornerback position, Pittsburgh has very little experience at the safety position, except for nine-year veteran Will Allen.
We know that wide receiver Antonio Brown will be around for a while. However, the same can’t be said for Mike Wallace. Prior to the start of the 2012 season, Wallace refused to sign a tender offer and never showed up for training camp. Wallace definitely won’t get the big deal that he is seeking from the Steelers, and there is still a chance that Pittsburgh will slap the franchise tag on him. The Steelers would benefit from adding another receiver for next season, especially if they decide to carry only four on the roster like they did in 2012.
Pittsburgh’s group of quarterbacks were by far the most experienced group on the team this past season. The Steelers’ quarterbacks had 34 combined years of experience. Ben Roethlisberger will be going into his 10th season in 2013, and is still in his prime. Both Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich are free agents, and it is safe to say that at least one of them will be gone next year. This is the perfect time to add some youth to the quarterback position. It is at this time that a rookie can have the chance to be groomed under Roethlisberger, which will prepare the Steelers for the post-Big Ben era.
The possibility of outside linebacker James Harrison wearing black and gold next season may be next-to-none. Harrison has battled with injuries over the past two years, and his sack total has diminished significantly. Furthermore, the potential release of Harrison will free up some much-needed salary cap room for the Steelers so that they can make some offseason moves. Not only has Harrison’s sack total declined, but the defense’s sack numbers as a whole has shrunk. Adding a pass rusher in the first round of April’s draft may be the answer to that problem. Going the draft route may be cheaper than signing a proven pass rushing veteran.
The Steelers could possibly go into next season without two of the running backs that were on the roster this past season. Pittsburgh has already waived running back Chris Rainey because of an alleged domestic dispute. Rashard Mendenhall could possibly be looking for another city to call home after an injury-filled, unproductive season. Recovering from a torn ACL and an Achilles injury might have made the Steelers’ organization give Mendenhall the benefit of the doubt. However, his refusal to be with the team after being told that he was inactive for a Week 14 home game might have ruffled some feathers.
Casey Hampton is a free agent, and just like Mendenhall, he may not be re-signed. Hampton’s age, 35, and the fact that Pittsburgh might not be able to afford to offer him a contract would be the reasons why the Steelers could let go of Hampton. This will leave Steve McLendon as the Steelers’ starting nose tackle next season. McLendon has improved year after year, and seems to be ready to take the starting role at his position. However, Pittsburgh doesn’t have much depth at this position for their defensive line rotation. Fellow nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was the Steelers’ fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, but still is a work in progress.
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